Have you ever admired a quilt with a beautiful appliqué motif and said: “I want to do this!”. Well, I hope you have. Needle-turn hand appliqué has been a passion of mine for almost as long as I have been quilting. Now, I know many of you do not like hand work and are afraid of the “A” word. But you don’t have to be! You can do your appliqué by machine. I just love the added something that appliqué gives to a quilt top, whether it is pieced or just a plain background.
I have done appliqué posts in the past talking about many of the different steps for doing hand appliqué but have never done a full post on making stems. So, here you have it …. a blog post on stems! If you are interested in appliqué instruction from start to finish, consider purchasing my video class Sew on the Go with Needle-turn Hand Appliqué. Once purchased it’s yours to keep forever!
I like to create my stems from bias cut strips since those are easier to manipulate into curves than straight cut strips. I usually use either a fat quarter or fat eighth depending on how many stems I need. Here is how to cut bias stems.
Press your fabric and lay it on the cutting table as shown:
Align the 45° line of your long (24″) ruler with the bottom of the fabric (the arrow in the photo is pointing to the 45° line):
Now, using the rotary cutter, make your first cut:
Then measure and cut out the amount of strips you need. If you need stems longer than the strips produced, you may have to stitch a few strips together before preparing them into stems.
Cut your strips 1/2″ wider than the width of your finished stem. For example, if you want 1/2″ stems you need to cut your bias strips 1″ wide.
Now it’s time to prepare the strips into stems. To do this, I use a bias tool. They come in sizes from 1/4″ to 1″. The size of the tool in the finished size of the stem. So, for a 1/2″ stem, we will use a 1/2″ bias tool.
Feed the strip, right side of fabric down, into the larger end of the tool until it comes out the smaller end. When it comes out of the end, the sides of the strip will be folded over as shown. Use the iron press this fold all the way down the strip to make the stem.
When you are done making stems and are ready to put them onto your quilt background, you will affix the stems with the raw edges down. Here’s a project I have in progress to show you how I am shaping the stems:
Stems are usually stitched onto the project first because they are usually covered with flowers and leaves or other parts of the appliqué motif.
Here are a few of my favorite appliqué patterns:
So, that’s making stems! Not very hard to do and they add so much to an appliqué design.
Leave a comment below in this blog post on your favorite type of appliqué project and win a free pattern for my newest design Summer Serendipity.
I will draw for the winner in 2 weeks! **Winner has been chosen** Congrats Sharon Aurora!**
Sharon Edwards says
Stems intimidate me thank you for sharing
Beverly Lawler says
That’s how I make my stems for appliqué also. So easy!
Hope that my mini tutorial helps!
Patricia Ann Massey says
That looks sooo easy l shall do this very soon l have a project on mind.
charlene spurlock says
I do lots of machine applique and prefer do so smaller projects. That is the way I do my stems.
Lewcrese S says
I do machine applique, small or large, I do them all! I do make my stems though from bias cuts and I love the bias tape makers. They make it so easy no matter what size you need. I attach them to my project using small drops of glue and an iron to keep them in place until I machine stitch them down.
Exactly what I do! 🙂
Nanette Chopin says
I am a traditional needle turn appliquer! I cut my bias stems the same way, but I mark a straight/curved line on the background/border for placement. I cut my bias strips 5/8″ and then I pin the stem down and then sew one side down (hand applique) and depending on how wide I want it, I either trim the strip or leave it as it is. Then I applique the other side.
I cut out a lot of steps in my applique projects using Jenkins pre cut freezer paper (no more tracing) and do not use any glue. I am working on a project now if interested you can see my work at http://www.doitrightquilter.com – I only quilt for fun or for show quilts. I do not have a business. Just thought I would share with others.
Sounds like an interesting way to place your stems on the project. I’ll check out you site too!
Mary Smith opp says
Next, could you please explain how you attach the stems and the stitching you use. Thanks
I will do that in an upcoming post. Thanks for the suggestion!
I like to do wool applique! This is so easy for me to do! I have found that using a stapler to adhere the pieces until I stitch them down works wonderfully! Love your patterns. Thanks for this great tutorial and… for the chance to win your beautiful pattern! HUGS… and stitches
Sharon Aurora says
Thanks for the tutorial. You make it look so easy. I like raw edge applique by hand the most and I love doing mug rugs.
If I am doing hand appliqué I like to do either the starch prepared, or needle turn, preferable on 12″ blocks, or the equivalent, as the pieces are usually easier for me to handle. I like to use bias stems, made like you show, when I can.
I love working with wool applique! Love the rich color selections. Thank you for this tutorial!
Marie Dusing says
I am planning a quilt for my youngest granddaughter. I’ll have to try this technique.
Kathy in WV says
Thank you for a chance to win….I love needle-turn applique and have just started back basting my work. Occasionally I will do a blanket stitch by machine, depending on the project and how much time I can spare. My applique projects have been very small items thus far, I might be just a little bit intimidated by a large appliqued quilt. 🙂
Angelia Ulrich says
Applique is also my passion. I enjoyed your blog posting & going over the stem making. Angelia
Patty Fallon says
I have done stem applique the way you have shown. I have also used bias bars to make stems. I do a lot of work with wool, and when using wool, I don’t really have to do any special prep, but will sometimes use a dot of glue to hold the stem in place until I blanket stitch it!
Same here on the wool stems. Love Roxanne’s Glue!
Jeanne Wisniewski says
Easy way to do stems, I love doing needle turn appliance especially Baltimore album blocks while sitting in front of tv in the evening. Will appliance is such a lovely easy appliance to do, no raw edges.
Jeanne Wisniewski says
Oops, working with wool applique is what I enjoy. This tablet has a mind of its own and spell check changes things.
Wool applique is great! I love it too. And yes ….. auto-correct on tablets drives me crazy too! LOL!
I love to add Applique to my quilts but have never heard to cut stems on the bias. Great advice that I will heed!
Try it… you’ll like it!
Judith McCaulley says
I mostly do raw edge applique for wall hangings, since they seldom get washed. I also cut my stems on the bias – depending on the applique, I’ll turn the edges, or just leave the raw edges.
Definitely a time saver if the quilt won’t be washed!
Sonja Adams says
Hi Deanne, I am just starting with wool appliqué and loving it, but how would you recommend doing the stems in this medium. Cutting on the bias would require a lot of fabric.
Hi! For wool applique stems, I just do straight cut strips because wool is pliable enough to bend into curves. And yes, wool is expensive so it’s good we can do this for stems!